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Trash Pandas continue streak over Smokies

The Rocket City Trash Pandas got seven strong innings from starting pitcher Cooper Criswell and launched three more homers in an easy 9-1 win over the Tennessee Smokies Saturday night at Toyota Field in front of 7,209 fans.  The win extended the Trash Pandas’ winning streak to four and clinched Rocket City’s first ever series.

The win also pushed the Trash Pandas’ record to 6-5.  The first time Rocket City has been above .500 this season.

The Trash Pandas, again, used the long ball to start the scoring in the first.  Centerfielder Orlando Martinez ignited the rally with a leadoff double, then scored when first baseman David MacKinnon drilled a two-run homer to left to put Rocket City in front.

Tennessee scored their lone run on a two-out, second-inning dinger by right fielder Vance Vizcaino to left.  The solo shot cut the Trash Pandas’ lead in half.

However, the home team would plate four runs in the third to put the game away.  Second baseman Michael Stefanic led off with a single before the next two hitters were retired.  Third baseman Mitch Nay came up next and reached on an infield single to put runners at the corners with two out.  Former New York Mets infielder Gavin Cecchini, appearing in his first game with the Trash Pandas, followed and ripped a three-run homer well over the leftfield wall to make the score 5-1.

Smokies starting pitcher Luis Lugo was lifted from the game after Cecchini’s shot and replaced by Scott Effross.  The right-hander was greeted rudely by Martinez who lifted a solo homerun to right to push the Rocket City lead to 6-1.  It was the second time in as many nights the Trash Pandas have gone back-to-back with homeruns giving them 10 for the series.

Rocket City would wrap up the scoring with three unearned runs in the fifth.  Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with two away when leftfielder Torii Hunter Jr. reached on a fielding error from the Smokies’ Andy Weber, one of three errors in the game for the shortstop.

With the bases still loaded, Martinez lined a double to right-center to score two more runs and give Rocket City the final tally of 9-1.

The Trash Pandas pounded out 13 hits in the game as Martinez led the way with a 3-5 effort.  He had two doubles, two RBI and a run scored.  Cecchini finished his first game 2-5 with his three-run homer and single.  He also scored two runs and stole a base.  Stefanic and Hunter chipped in with two singles apiece.  Stefanic scored a run, while Hunter stole a base.

The Smokies were held to four hits, two of them by Vizcaino who also singled in addition to the round-tripper.

Getting the win was Criswell (1-1) who bounced back from a difficult outing against Chattanooga last Sunday by going seven frames and allowing an earned run on four hits.  The Carrollton, GA native did not walk a hitter and struck out seven.  The loss fell to Lugo (0-2) as the southpaw gave up five earned runs on six hits over 2.2 innings.

Over the last four games, Trash Pandas starters have allowed only one run in 20.1 innings.

The Trash Pandas (6-5) wrap-up series with the Smokies (4-6) on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Field with first pitch scheduled for 2:35 p.m. CT.  The game can be heard on 103.9 FM THE UMP and SportsRadio 730 AM with Josh Caray on the call.

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